Hundreds of people attended the White Ribbon Walk on 25 November in Penrith to make a pledge to speak out against domestic violence. The banks of the Nepean river served as the location for the 2017 walk to increase awareness. Penrith, Mount Druitt, Blue Mountains and Blacktown police attended. Schools, universities and local residents also joined the walk.
50 students from the Catholic boys school St. Dominic’s College walked wearing their blue sports uniform. It was important to them to walk in unison so the community could see young men standing together against domestic violence. Their teacher Zac Culican said, “Women on the walk commented they felt reassured seeing the boys there in their blue shirts, unified.”
St. Dominic’s college has held meetings and assemblies all week including meeting with Emma Hussar MP, Federal Member for Lindsay. The boys held A3 posters on Parker Street, Penrith in support of White Ribbon day. It is part of their “Campaign of Respect,” which also involves the more practical step of collecting food for hampers to donate to women’s refuges.
Catholic girl’s school Caroline Chisholm College also participated in the walk. Teacher Richard Caws said, “Our students, teachers, staff and parents walked together and even a few furry friends [came along]. Principal Gregory Elliott said, “We need to bring this devastating issue out into the open.” Year 12 student Georgia Wood, “It is our duty to make a difference in the community we live in.” She has lead a fundraising campaign at her school to donate toiletry gift packs for women taking shelter in domestic violence refuges.
Domestic violence is a very serious issue. Statistically, one woman is killed by her partner each week in Australia. Along the 5km path of the White Ribbon Walk were posters delineating the impact of domestic violence, such as the fact that domestic violence reduces an employee’s ability in the workplace.
The number of deaths due to domestic violence jumped in 2012 from an average of one per fortnight to one a week. These figures do not include the deaths of children and other family members caught in the cycle of domestic violence.
As a result of increased community awareness of domestic violence, many Australians have agreed to take the White Ribbon Oath: I will stand up, speak out and act to prevent men’s violence against women. The oath emphasises the responsibility of the bystander, regardless of age, gender or ethnicity.
More information about domestic violence and support service for victims can be found by calling 1800RESPECT. If you are in immediate danger, call police on emergency number 000.
Queen of Hearts Community Foundation also attended in great numbers but were unavailable to comment. The Penrith-based organisation provides trauma support and counselling for men, women and children.
Story by Abigail Nash